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An order creating an asbestos claims court to resolve hundreds of asbestos cases was issued by the  Montana Supreme Court. The high court’s order places all pending asbestos cases into a special court. District Judge Amy Eddy, who has an extensive background in complex civil litigation, will preside over the court initially. According to a Supreme Court press release a total of about 600 pending asbestos cases have been identified.

Kalispell-based Thomas Printing has acquired Artcraft Printers of Billings. Plans are to increase sales and production across the state. Thomas Printing operates sales offices in Bozeman, Kalispell and Bellingham, Washington, with another printing facility in Kalispell. The acquisition will allow the company to extend its business into the printing needs of the oil and gas industries.

Cousins Craig and Dave Wilkins began a start-up in their uncle’s garage that sought to extend the life of lithium batteries used to power cellphones and lap-tops. Since 2008, several versions of different products and offshoot businesses studying different technologies have been created. The company is poised to disrupt the battery market using innovations to Nickel-Zinc technologies, which they hope will displace more common lead acid or lithium ion batteries.

Yellowstone National Park has announced that bison managers plan to cull between 600 and 900 of the animals currently in the Park. Recently federal, state and tribal officials worked out the details for a winter management plan. Officials estimate there are almost 5,000 bison in the two park herds.
Through tax abatement, Pattern Energy will pay taxes on a percentage of its full taxable value for the first nine years after construction of its Stillwater County wind farm. The commissioners opted for the 25 percent option, meaning that for the first five years Pattern will be taxed at 25 percent of its taxable value. That percentage will increase after the fifth year until the project is taxed at 100 percent of its taxable value. Even after tax abatement, the Stillwater Wind project is expected to bring almost $18 million of taxes into the county throughout the project’s 25-year lifespan.

Continental Resources is reporting a second international sale of 430,000 barrels scheduled for January delivery to unspecified international markets. The transaction will take place in Cushing, Oklahoma. The announcement follows one in October that Continental will sell just over 1 million barrels of Bakken crude to Atlantic Trading and Marketing, which is exporting the oil to China.

Two years after Watford City voters overwhelming approved increasing the city sales tax to 1½ percent, the Watford City City Council could ask voters in June to remove the $25 cap on purchases. Members of Visit Minot’s board of directors discussed a potential one percent food and beverage tax that they plan to propose to the city council.

Seattle’s controversial tax on the wealthy failed its first legal test after a judge ruled the new ordinance violates state law – but the city vows to appeal, setting the stage for a Washington State Supreme Court showdown.

The Award of Excellence in Websites was presented to the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research for the  Montana Economic Outlook Seminar website from the Association for University Business and Economic Research during its recent national conference. . “Our new site gives attendees of our outlook events across the state a place to learn and interact with seminar presenters throughout the year,” said Patrick Barkey, director of BBER. “We’re thrilled to see the talents of our publications director, Scott Hawk, recognized in this prestigious award.”

Bob Hietala, dean of Gallatin College Montana State University, recently was named the recipient of Prospera Business Network’s 2017 Economic Leadership Award. Prospera Business Network in Bozeman gives the award annually to an individual who has made a significant contribution to economic development. Hietala was named because of the quality and growth Gallatin College has had in responding to the community’s business needs, which has created pathways for people to get into new and growing industries. Hietala has served as dean of Gallatin College MSU since 2008. During that time, enrollment at Gallatin College MSU has increased from 700 to 1,600 students, and the college’s degree and certificate programs have grown from four to 13.

A program at Montana State University that works to support underrepresented undergraduate students has received $1.2 million to continue the program for another five years. The grant from the U.S. Department of Education will provide funding for MSU’s McNair Scholars Program, which is designed to support undergraduates who are minorities or who are first-generation and low-income students.

“The number of available homes and the months’ supply of inventory in the Gallatin area market continue to decrease, while the average sale price in the single-family market continues to increase, according to Steve Candler CEO of the Gallatin Association of Realtors. The number of new single-family listings increased from 99 in October 2016 to 125 last month, a 26.3 percent increase, while the number of closed sales rose from 135 to 146, an 8.1 percent jump. The average number of days on market until sale was 49, down from 65 in October 2016, a 24.6 percent drop. The inventory of homes for sale dropped 16.4 percent, from 554 in October 2016 to 463 last month, while the average sale price rose from $444,012 to $460,896, a 3.8 percent increase. The months’ supply of inventory dropped from 4.3 to 3.6, a 16.3 percent decrease.
 
Dan Wenk, superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, will receive an honorary doctorate degree in letters from Montana State University during the university’s fall commencement. MSU’s fall commencement ceremonies are scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. Called “an eloquent advocate and steward of the world’s first national park,” Wenk has been superintendent of Yellowstone National Park since February 2011. In his position at the helm of the “crown jewel” of American parks, he manages more than 2.2 million acres, millions of visitors, a staff of 800 and an annual base budget of more than $36 million. He is concerned with a wide variety of issues ranging from wolves and grizzly bear management to snowmobile access and visitor use management. His job has been described as one of the most difficult but most essential jobs in America today.